Vancouver cyclists are their own worst enemies. The way many ignore basic road rules, or are simply ignorant of them, is doing far more to harm to their cause than any resistance from other road users. If you don't believe me, or feel I'm simply an anti-cycling bigot, listen to Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs, a staunch cycling advocate.
"The antics of cyclists are a huge headache for me, I can assure you," he emailed Hornby Street resident Bruce Striegler. "And I am one." Meggs was responding to Striegler's recent query about whether the Vision Vancouver councillor had "any real idea of the state of affairs of pedestrians and cyclists across the downtown core, West End or Yaletown."
I seem to get slammed or called a cycling heretic...
(in less kind words) for promoting the idea that we (sport cyclists) should consider NOT riding certain roads, particuarly at key traffic times, because of the effect it has on motorists and their opinion and attitude toward cyclists in general. My critics exclaim "It's our right!" and that is true, but it's not always advantageous for us to exercise those rights all the time, just as it's not always advantageous to exercise the right to ride two-abreast on a busy 2-lane road. Sometimes, exercising a right can be counterproductive and even stupid. I'm not so much referring to bike commuters who cycle mostly out of necessity, as I am "sport cyclists" who the public more perceives as "optional cyclists".
"Good luck, all us Cycling Advocates who think we can force or will the prejudice away through "motorist education", without first advocating for better cyclist behavior!"
As a sport cyclist, my primary riding requirements are safety and enjoyment. Riding in a bad place, at a bad time, or in a bad manner can compromise those things. Now, I think we cyclists need to face something -- the bad deeds of the few will always be the most powerful force in forming, controlling, and maintaining MOTORING PUBLIC OPINION against us. That's a generalization, and generalizations are not perfect. But what we need to remember is the motoring public forms generalizations about us and uses those generalizations to influence how they behave on the road -- and they also use them in communicating with their legislators.
We're for Cyclists -- and for Motorists. We've GOT to Coexist.
Written by Paul Graff
Monday, 28 September 2009 00:00
Polite and Right Cycling Advocacy is about fixing something we think is dangerously broken -- the relationship between cyclists and motorists. We're simultaneously about cycling safety and peace of mind. We believe cycling safety and peace of mind will be lacking until we're confident that motorists are on our side. To get more motorists on our side, we have to give them something.
When I'm able to get out and enjoy the countryside, I don't worry about much of anything -- not flats, mechanical problems, being chased by dogs, a stray rain shower, or running out of snacks or water -- but there is one thing that is a constant concern. Motorists.
What worries me most about motorists? I worry a little about becoming the inadvertent target of a distracted or DUI driver, but mostly it's that some rogue driver might "have it out" for cyclists like me. Not because I'VE done anything wrong, but because a few other cyclists have rubbed them the wrong way and have created a stereotype they don't like. And I -- well, I just happen to look like one of those cyclists.
Now my problem is, I'm just out for nice recreational ride, following the rules, staying out of motorists way while occupying the pavement I'm entitled to and I still worry. I hate that and I'd like to start fixing it, but I can't do it alone.
When I ride, I carry a little nagging worry that some motorist is not paying attention to my road position, or worse, is paying too much attention because they have it out for cyclists. As cyclists, we need to take the initiative to start mending the "us or them" mentality between motorists and cyclists. Cars are bigger than us, so we need THEM to WANT TO take care of us.
We definitely need to SHARE THE ROAD, but only roads where this is possible. I mean, some roads are not compatible for cars and bikes to use them at the same time. As responsible cyclists, we should try to pick compatible roads, whenever possible -- not the ones that cause tension between drivers and cyclists!
We don't need the same rights as motor vehicles, we need special rights. Notably, the right to safe use of a small piece of the road and the right not to be harassed or threatened. But with rights come responsibilities. It's our responsibility not to unnecessarily delay motorists. Riding an "incompatible road" at the wrong time of the day is not smart, probably not fun, and ruins cycling's reputation.
1. Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives.
You're a motorist, who's late for an appointment: Your'e driving on a 2-lane highway with no shoulder, with heavy oncoming traffic and two sport cyclists are riding single file in your lane, but it's impossible for you to safely pass. You proceed at 18 mph for the next 2.5 miles until you are able to safely pass.
You're a sport cyclist riding solo on a well-traveled, 4-lane highway: You're 3 miles from the outskirts of town, headed for the country roads. The road has a only 6-inch shoulder and you decide it's best to ride just a couple of inches to the right of the shoulder stripe, allowing ample room for cars to pass you in your lane if they choose not to change to the left-hand lane. A person in a pickup truck passes you closely, nearly striking you with their side mirror while yelling an obscenity and telling you to "get off the road!".